« PreviousContinue »
nothing, when compared with the feelings which a view of the town itself excited.
* As we pursued the main road, and approached St. Sebastian's by its ordinary entrance, we were at first surprized at the slight degree of damage done to its fortifications by the fire of our batteries. The walls and battlements beside the gate-way appeared wholly uninjured, the very embrasures being bardly defaced. But the delusion grew gradually more faint as we drew nearer, and had totally vanished before we reached the glacis. We found the draw-bridge fallen down across the ditch, in such a fashion that the endeavour to pass it was not without danger. The folding gates were torn from their hinges, one lying flat upon the ground, , and the other leaning against the wall; whilst our own steps, as we moved along the arched passage, sounded loud and melancholy.
Having crossed this, we found ourselves at the commencement of what had once been the principal street in the place. No doubt it was, in its day, both neat and regular; but of the houses nothing now remained except the outward shells, which, however, appeared to be of an uniform height and style of architecture. As far as I could judge, they stood five stories from the ground, and were faced with a sort of freestone, so thoroughly blackened and defiled as to be hardly cognizable. The street itself was, moreover, choked up with heaps of ruins, among which were strewed about fragments of household furniture and clothing, mixed with caps, military accoutrements, round shot, pieces of shells, and all the other implements of strife. Neither were there wanting other evidences of the drama which had been lately acted here, in the shape of dead bodies, putrefying, and infecting the air with the most horrible stench. Of living creatures, on the other hand, not one was to be seen, not even a dog or a cat; indeed, we traversed the whole city without meeting more than six human beings. These, from their dress and abject appearance, struck me as being some of the inhabitants who had survived the assault. They looked wild and haggard, and moved about here and there, poking among the ruins, as if they were either in search of the bodies of their slaughtered relatives, or hoped to find some little remnant of their property.'
The fall of St. Sebastian's was speedily followed by the advance of the whole army. On the 7th of October, the Bidassoa was crossed, and the heights above carried at the point of the bayonet, the allied army taking possession of the ground which had been previously held by the troops of Marshal Soult; but it was not till the 10th of November that circumstances would authorize a further progress into an enemy's country. Pampluna still held out; and to leave a place of so much consequence, in his rear, accorded not with the policy of Lord Wellington. As soon, however, as intelligence reached him that that city had actually surrendered, he once more put his columns in motion; drove the French from the stupendous position of St. Jean de Luz; and having rendered his communications as secure as it was possible to render them, placed the different divisions in cantonments
for the winter. Though we have already made longer extracts from the Subalteru, than we are in the habit of making from works likely to be extensively read, we cannot avoid laying before our readers the following lively sketch of the life of a soldier in his winter-quarters. After relating by what means, and in what manner he and his friend contrived to render their apartment habitable, our author proceeds to say:
Having thus rendered our quarters as snug as they were capable of being made, my friend and myself proceeded daily into the adjoining woods in search of game; and as the frost set in, we found them amply stored, not only with hares and rabbits, but with cocks, snipes, and other birds of passage. We were not, however, so fortunate as to fall in with any of the wild boars which are said to frequent these thickets, though we devoted more than one morning to the search; but we managed to supply our own tables, and the tables of several of our comrades, with a very agreeable addition to the lean beef which was issued out to
Nor were other luxuries wanting. The peasantry, having recovered their confidence, returned in great numbers to their homes, and seldom failed to call at our mansion, once or twice a week, with wine, fresh bread, cider, and bottled beer; by the help of which we contrived to fare well, as long as our fast-diminishing stock of money lasted. I say fast-dimivishing stock of money; for as yet no addition had been made to that which each of us brought with him from England; and though the pay of the army was now six months in arrear, but faint hopes were entertained of any immediate donations.
• It was not, however, among regimental and other inferior officers, that this period of military inaction was esteemed and acted upon as one of enjoyment. Lord Wellington's fox-hounds were unkenņelled; and he himself took the field regularly twice a week as if he bad been a denizen of Leicestershire, or any other sporting county in England. I need not add that few parks in any country could be better attended. Not that the horses of all the huntsmen were of the best breed, or of the gayest appearance; but what was wanting in individual splendour was made up by the number of Nimrods; nor would it be easy to discover a field more fruitful in laughable occurrences, which no man more heartily enjoyed than the gallant Marquis himself. When the bounds were out he was no longer the commander of the forces, the general-in-chief of three armies, and the representative of three sovereigns; but the gay, merry, country gentleman, who rode at every thing, and laughed as loud when he fell himself, as when he witnessed the fall of a brother sportsman.'
From these comfortable cantonments the British army was again moved on the ninth day of December. The object of this movement being merely to throw the right across the Nivelle, which had hitherto interrupted its line of communications, that object was no sooner attained, and a recognizance of the intrenched camp in front of Bayonne effected, than the different brigades in the left and centre columns once more returned to their quarters.
But in these they were not left long unmolested. On the morning of the 10th the outposts were attacked with great fury; and a battle ensued, which with hardly any interruption continued, during the hours of daylight, throughout the whole of the 10th, the 11th, and the 12th. Our author's description of this battle is a great deal too long for insertion; but we can safely recommend it to the notice of our readers, as in no respect less spirited, or less correct, than the account of the storming of St. Sebastian which we have already given.
We cannot afford room to follow our young soldier through the remaining details of his amusing work; nor is it necessary that we should. The passages we have extracted present no par, tial picture of the volume: it is written throughout, not indeed with uniform elegance, but with unfailing spirit; and to the accuracy and truth of his sketches the author has, as we understand, received infinitely higher testimony than we could furnish.
The · Young Rifleman' presents a lively contrast to the highspirited ‘Subaltern. This adventurer also tells his own tale—and he tells it very amusingly. A poor young barber-surgeon of Erfurt is inveigled into the service of Buonaparte in 1806, and performs several of the Spanish campaigns in the capacity of a private footsoldier. He is at last taken prisoner by the English, and being smitten with prodigious admiration of the beef, pudding, comfortable clothing, and easy-paced steeds of his countrymen in the King's German Legion, enlists into that fine corps at Lisbon. He serves with them both in Spain and in Sicily, and has the opportunity of seeing England herself, and admiring her cheer. This, indeed, is the great object of the Riflemanbarber's attention throughout all his wanderings. He is in his way a sort of Dugald Dalgetty-doing his duty, we have no doubt, but uniformly reserving his best zeal for the collecting of Provende. He, through half his book, represents the French army as a set of innocent lambs horribly ill treated by the Spaniards -unjustly, and even without the shadow of excuse, condemned by that obstinate race to a long protracted penance of hard marches and meagre fare. But the very first steam of our fleshpots converts him, and he becomes, from that moment, fully sensible to all the atrocity of Napoleon's invasion. He is of the opinion of Sancho Panza at Camacho's wedding, that there are but two lineages in the world, the House of Have and the House of Want, and, like Sancho, gives all his loyalty to the former. The perfect good faith with which this character describes him as taking money from a poor girl in a Posada for not betiacing a little love-secret that accident had let him into, without apparently entertaining the slightest suspicion that his conduct was at all un
worthy of a hero,—and many instances of similar simplicity scattered over his pages, are most edifying. This person also has, it appears, returned to his original calling; and we dare say the Cutbeard of Erfurt conducts himself in a style that will by no means recommend him to the custom of her Moroses.
The Adventures of the French Serjeant,' which too, it would appear, have been published for the first time in this paradise of copyright, are the work of a better educated and a much cleverer person than the German Rifleman: but the author's selfishness and sulkiness are so conspicuous from the beginning to the end of his career, that not all the smartness of his style and the magnificence of his vanity are enough to make his book a pleasant one. It is disagreeable to be detecting at every turn the soul of a candlesnuffer beneath the trappings even of a melo-dramatic hero. The non-commissioned auto-biographers are bcth of them, by their own showing, mean fellows; but the one speaks out his foibles with something of the eandour of another Ĝil Blas; the other is more like a shallow Fathom.
Many passages of the Serjeant's book are, however, exceedingly entertaining, and perhaps none more so than the chapter in which he describes his residence upon Cabrera, a small and barren island off the Spanish coast, to which, along with some other prisoners taken by the guerrillas, he was relegated in February, 1810. But a few days before he had strutted in the midst of one of the haughtiest and best appointed armies that ever scorned the name of Pekin. * At two in the afternoon,' says he, we were within sight of Cabrera. When we approached the coast, we saw the rocks on the shore crowded with people ; I could soon distinguish the persons individually, who had
fixed upon us, and seemed to follow our movements with anxious care. I examined them in my turn, without being able to account for the scene before me; at last a sudden impulse, which struck me with astonishment and stupefaction, told me that the men before me were Frenchmen, whose lot I was come to share. Many of them were quite naked, and as black as mulattos, with beards fit for a pioneer, dirty and out of order; some had pieces of clothing, but they had no shoes, or their legs, thighs, and part of their body were bare. The number of thest 'new companions of mine I estimated to be about five or six thousand, among whom I at last saw three with pantaloons and uniforms still almost entire; the whole body were mingled together on the rocks and the beach, were shouting with joy, beating their hands, and following us as we moved along.'-Adventures of a French Serjeant, p. 89.
is tumult was soon explained. The vessel in which the Serji i sailed was that which once a week brought, or was expected to bring, the prisoners' rations. Bad weather sometimes, and Spanish indolence more frequently, delayed the arrival until VOL. XXXIV. NO, LXVIII,
the depôt was half famished: and upon this occasion the patience of the poor Frenchmen had already been considerably tried.
The brig was unladen forthwith, and the ensuing ceremony of distribution is thus described.
* An immense semi-circle was formed round the spot where the bread and meat had been deposited. Ten or twelve persons were in the centre; one of them had a list in his hand, and called out successively for the different divisions to come forward, and likewise cried out their respective numbers. Three or four men then came forward, received the rations allotted to their mess, and carried them away;
the private divisions were then made among themselves. I should not give a just idea of the manner in which the distribution was made, by saying, that the utmost order and regularity prevailed; it was more than order, it was a kind of solemn and religious gravity. I doubt if the important and serious duties of ambassadors and ministers of state have ever in any country been fulfilled with such dignity as was shown on the countenances, and in every movement of the distributors. Bread seemed to be a sacred object, the smallest morsel of which could not be secreted without committing an heinous crime; the smallest pieces which had been broken off in the conveyance were gathered with care and respect, and placed on the heap to which they belonged. I was busily engaged iu surveying this singular ceremony, and took no share in it myself; I did not know whom I was to apply to for rations, which I bad an equal claim to with the rest ; hence I was soon left alone, for every one went off with his supply. This, however, I was not much concerned at; I had four loaves in my knapsack, two pounds of salt beef, and a bottle of rum; with these I could do till the next distribution of provisions. I wandered
and down the shore with a staff in my hand, and my knapsack on my back, and I was thinking of walking into the interior of the island, when I was addressed by some of the prisoners, and in a few minutes surrounded by a considerable crowd. The distribution of provisions bad been a matter of too great importance for them to pay attention to me at first; but it would seem, after the staff of life, what they loved most, was to bear news of their native land. I was overwbelmed with questions about the situation of the various regiinents, but above all of the state of France, and the affairs of the Peninsula. I told them all I knew. Several times when I was speaking of our late victories, my voice was drowned with shouts of joy, mingled with expressions of courage, national pride, and vengeance.'--pp. 90, 91.
These gentlemen had their Circenses as well as their loaves. They fought duels every day; and the very next morning after his arrival our Serjeant was engaged as second in one of these affairs, where the principals had great difficulty in agreeing as to weapons -the election lying between razors fixed to the ends of canes, scissors, knife-blades, awis, and sailmakers' needles, all similarly mounted. One of the combatants not understanding point,' razors were ultimately preferred. They had a regular bazaar: • It was situated at a spot honoured with the name of the Palais Royal,